• Charlotte Guest




Slumped on the garden step, my father,

his storied hands writ large, is

soothed by the night’s coolness and

harangued by images

of bigger moons.


At his hip, the softs of my feet

twitch; my mouth

sluices his face with questions in quick



What happens if a comet hits the earth tonight?

Where in the world is it tomorrow right now?

Who were you before me?


Perturbed, my father,

says something about skin cells

and every ten years,

meaning I’ve had four fathers

and am a very lucky girl.


Tell me of the first daddy, and the second daddy, I say,

right up ‘til the fourth daddy that had me.

Heavy-lidded, palimpsest skin,

breath the scent of pale fire,

it is suddenly time to eat.




Autobiographical fragment


                        The blue balloons,

inflated to the size of modest goals,

like regular pay, attract people, as

flowers attract bees. They are involved

in the world of invisible forces.


                        It is a birthday party.

I watch from the window opposite.

Nearly-women and nearly-men arrive

and disappear into the pumping heart

of the apartment.


                        Suddenly, I am transported

back to Rachel’s eighteenth birthday:

we held a funeral for her youth. We

buried a doll in a shoebox lined with

Eucalyptus tissues. The doll

stared into middle distance

all the way down.


                        After the grave was

sealed, Rachel emerged from behind

the shed to effervescent music.

She was draped in a white sheet,

a smudge of light growing slowly nearer,

like death from the perspective of the

dying. Her feet arched and fell; her toes

transformed into gentle animals nosing

the ground. We reached for her


                        through affected tears

and stifled giggles. She was our messiah:

older than the rest of us, schooled in

the secrets of Eros and Thanatos. She

passed cryptic notes in chemistry:  

Everyone who loves should spend time

with the periodic table.


                        Who are we

in the places we occupy? The door

to the apartment opposite opens.

A young woman steps out and folds

over the balcony like laundry. She

slides her weight more fully in my

direction, as if to say I sense here the

limits of my life.


The air makes a sound

as I suck it through my teeth.